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Carnival Splendor cruise ship approaches San Diego

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Media captionCarnival president Gerry Cahill: ''We know we ruined their vacations''

A disabled cruise ship that caught fire off the coast of Mexico is approaching San Diego and is expected to arrive in the US city by midday on Thursday.

The vessel is being pulled by two tugboats and followed by three others.

The Carnival Splendor, which is carrying 4,500 people, was 200 miles (310km) south of San Diego when the fire broke out on Monday morning.

The head of Carnival Cruise Lines has called the fire the worst accident in the company's 35-year history.

Gerry Cahill, chief executive of the cruise line, apologised at a press conference in San Diego on Wednesday, saying passengers were being provided with free drinks at the bar and access to satellite phones so they could contact their families.

Image caption The ship's owner, Carnival Cruise Lines, has called the fire the worst accident in the company's history

The ship's crew is also offering live music and allowing passengers to sleep on the deck, Mr Cahill said.

He added that the vessel was 74 nautical miles (137km) from San Diego on Wednesday afternoon.

US Navy helicopters shuttled in supplies to the ship on Tuesday.

No passengers were harmed by the blaze on Monday.

The 952ft (290m) Carnival Splendor sailed from Long Beach, California, on Monday for a seven-day cruise of the Mexican Riviera.

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